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The One Festival 2017 - Programme A
The Space
14th January 2017

★★★★☆

Promotional image for The One Festival 2017

Photography supplied by The Space

After all the indulgences of Christmas, January is always a bit of a detox month. And when it comes to theatre, you can't pare things back much further than a simple monologue without any fancy-pants props. Now in its fifth year, The One Festival is a truly special celebration of theatre at its purest, showcasing new writing as brought to us by a veritable army of playwrights, performers and directors. December feels like a long time ago, however when monologues are as good as these, it's a bit like Christmas all over again.

The longest monologue in the programme and the standout highlight is Eyes to the Wind. Writer David Hendon doesn't give us a fleeting glimpse into a character's life or share an isolated thought; his monologue is a self-contained thoroughly gripping piece of intrigue with plenty of subtle foreshadowing woven into the dialogue. Daniel (Samuel Curry) speaks with a smooth, undeniably upper-class accent and moves with a natural elegance. His simple, casual sportswear and gold chain seem at odds with what we assume and soon confirm of his boarding school upbringing. With Daniel's current do-gooder lifestyle, perfectly sculpted cheekbones and so-trendy-it-hurts bleach blond hair, it comes as a shock to see the cancerous imperfections to his life revealed. Everyone, it seems, is capable of hiding a dark secret.

It's a well-crafted tale, full mystery and with hauntingly beautiful dialogue. Hendon successful avoids straying into cliché and yet establishes a very plausible protagonist and background. With nothing more than one (admittedly very good) actor and a wooden chair, director Hannah Banister guides us into the deepest, darkest moments of Daniel's life. Curry's delivery is eloquent and impassioned, the performer keeping us hooked onto his every word. Eyes to the Wind is undeniably a stylish lesson in how to nail a monologue. Hats off to the trio behind this piece.

Whilst a large part of A Modern Day Superhero is rather more predictable, it's nonetheless executed with a great deal of charm and easy humour. The main difference between Sherry Morris's writing and the many of the other monologues in the festival is that she immediately lets us know this isn't a mere flight of fancy. Our superhero protagonist (Chris Whotton) - complete with obligatory cape - thinks he can save people through his sense of smell. Well, his dog Rufus's sense of smell. Knowing he's mentally unstable quite early on allows us to observe his behaviour from a different angle and to muse on the good intentions he clearly has despite the strange behaviour. Director Katherine Timms doesn't let us pity Whotton's character, rather keeps the tone of this piece upbeat and light-hearted. It earns many well-deserved chuckles.

Despite a hint of Lauren Cooper in Sarah Tattersall's accent as she kicks off Angry Young Thing, her schoolgirl protagonist is much more of a Hermione Granger gone wrong than a Catherine Tate parody. Claudia is bright, enthusiastic and compassionate; if only she could wait to feed her desire to effect change until after quenching her thirst for knowledge, she could conquer the world. Less misinformed and more work-in-progress, Claudia is quick to defend the (possibly) defenceless, whether they be from war torn impoverished backgrounds or (more likely) just Milton Keynes. There's a heady mix of maturity and innocence in Claudia's actions and, like our other superhero in Programme A, we know Claudia believes she's doing the right thing.

The right thing could be to go right or it could be to go left, but it certainly isn't to stand still and contemplate that according to Abi (Gemma Seren), the lead in Antelopes and Misanthropes. Given most theatre goers visiting The Space will live in London, raging about slow walkers isn't the most original of concepts for Olu Alakijia's piece. Still, director John Fricker brings plenty of energy to the monologue, bringing out Abi's strong emotions on the topic. Somewhat deeper, if equally fleeting, is Ivan Faute's monologue about a Syrian refugee, On Arriving at the Refugee Processing Centre, UNHCR. With Cat Robey directing, it is of course performed with compassion and care. Actress Sophia Eleni ably captures all the anger, frustration and desperation from having to leave the most important thing behind.

A pleasingly strong start to the festival, Programme A reinforces the message that solo shows can be hugely entertaining and engaging. It's certainly an A grade from us and sets the bar high for the other four programmes and other 18 monologues.

The One Festival opened on 10th January and runs until 29th January. Programme A opened on 10th January, ran on 14th January and next runs on 19th January, 22nd January and 28th January 2017.

Nearest tube station: Mudchute (DLR)



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